A Failure to Learn in a Software Development Team: The Unsuccessful Introduction of an Agile Method

  • John McAvoyEmail author
  • Tom Butler


This paper presents an investigation of the failures associated with the introduction of a new software development methodology in a software project team. The failure to adopt the new methodology is seen as a failure to learn by the team. This paper posits that learning is more than the cognitive process of acquiring a new skill; learning also involves changes in behaviours, attitudes and opinions. As methodology adoption involves changes to a team's activities, values and norms, this study investigates the introduction of an Agile method by a software team as a learning experience. Researchers use the concepts of single- and double-loop learning to explain how social actors learn to (a) perform tasks efficiently and (b) decide on the best task to perform. The theory of triple-loop learning explains how a learning process can be ineffective; accordingly, it is employed to examine why the introduction of a new methodology was ineffective in the team studied. The theory illustrates how power factors influence learning. This study focuses on one specific power factor – the power inherent in the desire for cohesion and conformity within a team. Ineffective decision-making and related actions occur because of the desire to conform among group members; this was shown as the cause of ineffective learning in the software team. The findings illustrate how the values inherent in the Agile methodologies, primarily the desire for cohesion within the team, ultimately led to the failure of the team to learn.


Software Development Project Team Participant Observation Agile Method Agile Practice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Business Information SystemsUniversity College of CorkCorkIreland

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